Name: Lucille Ball
Birth Date: August 6, 1911 – April 26, 1989
Job Functions: Actress and Comic
Known For: I Love Lucy
This mini biography of Lucille Ball is important because of the lessons we can learn from her. She was the most adored American female comic of the twentieth century. An astute business woman, Ball procured ownership of her shows after they initially aired on CBS television, which resulted in huge profits when they were syndicated and the foreign rights were sold. In addition, if it hadn’t been for Lucille Ball, Mission Impossible and Star Trek would not have been on air.
Application of Ideas That Matter – How to Develop the Leader in You
- Step outside your comfort zone and take risks in your career.
- Do something that has never been done before.
- Keep moving forward even when things look dim. The road to success is paved with failures and false starts.
Lucille Ball’s Steps to Success
Like most people who experience phenomenal success in life, Lucille Ball had a few false starts before she finally found her groove.
- In 1926 Lucy enrolled at the John Murray Anderson/Robert Milton School of Theater and Dance in New York. She was a failure and shortly returned home.
- Returned to New York using the stage name Diane Belmont, but the shows she was chosen to appear in didn’t materialize and had to work at a Rexall Drugstore and at a dress salon. At age 17, she contracted rheumatoid arthritis and once again returned home, where her mother nursed her back to health for three years.
- Returned to New York and became the Chesterfield Cigarette Girl.
- In 1933, she was cast as a last-minute replacement for one of the twelve Goldwyn girls in the Eddie Canter movie Roman Scandals.
- Worked with comics such as Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and Buster Keaton.
- Met Desi Arnaz on the set of Dance,Girl, Dance.
- Cast as Liz Cooper, a high society housewife on CBS radio’s situation comedy My Favorite Husband. The show was a huge hit and they offered her to star in a television version of the show.
- Ball proposed that Arnaz be cast as her on-screen husband because of the strain her work was having on their marriage. CBS executives believed that Arnaz lacked talent and that his Cuban accent was too thick for the American audience.
- Ball took the show on the road to much critical acclaim then CBS relented.
- Ball and Arnaz received contracts as well as the ownership of the programs once they initially aired.
- The couple received huge profits from syndication, foreign rights, and re-runs.
- Formed Desilu Productions, their own production company.
- Desilu produced the pilot program for “I Love Lucy” for $5,000.
- On October 15, 1951, I Love Lucy was broadcast for the first time.
- Within six months the show was rated number one. It ran six seasons in its original format and then evolved into hour-long specials.
- It won over twenty awards, among them five Emmys.
- In October 1952, I Love Lucy was the highest-rated show on television.
- The show’s most famous episode came on January 19, 1953, when Ball, pregnant in real life with Desi Arnaz Jr., gave birth to “Little Ricky” on a prerecorded episode. Forty-four million Americans watched that evening, more than who watched the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower the following day.
- Achieved television super stardom through the event and appeared on the covers of Time, Life, and Look with their son and daughter.
- The show was the first in television history to claim viewing in more than ten million homes.
- It was filmed before a studio audience and helped to revolutionize television production by using three cameras.
- Became first woman to control her own television production studio after she divorced Arnaz and bought out his shares of the company.
- In 1957, Desilu started to produce shows like Mission Impossible, Star Trek, Our Miss Brooks, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Untouchables. Mission Impossible was successful early on, but it took Star Trek several seasons before it gained popularity in syndication.
- In 1957, Lucille Ball sold the rights to “I Love Lucy” to CBS for $6 million.
- Ball eventually sold Desilu Productions to Gulf Western in 1967 for $17 million.
- During the 1960s she produced and starred in The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, and Here’s Lucy.
- After her retirement from prime time in 1974, Ball continued to make many guest appearances on television. She starred on the Broadway show Mame in 1974.
- In 1983, Ball was in Stone Pillow, a made-for-television movie.
Biggest Accomplishments/Why Lucille Ball’s Contribution Matters
- If it wasn’t for Lucille Ball neither Mission Impossible nor Star Trek would have been on air. She approved production of these two expensive shows that were very innovative for the time.
- I Love Lucy was the first in television history to claim viewing in more than ten million homes.
Lessons from Lucille Ball
- Persistence Pays: Lucille Ball experienced failure and mediocre success before her phenomenal success.
- Work around Challenges: When CBS wasn’t sold on I Love Lucy, Ball produced it on her own and took it on the road to test it.
- Take Risks: Mission Impossible and Star Trek were innovative and expensive to produce shows, but Ball authorized production, and as they say, the rest is history.
- Be the First to do Something: Ball was the first woman to own a production studio, and I Love Lucy was first program pre-taped before a live audience.
UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography
St. Jame’s Encyclopedia of Popular Culture
Television in American Society Reference Library
Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms – Pop Culture of 20th-Century America
World Entertainment News Network
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